One of my priorities for NT-NL Synod, ELCA this year is to focus on ministry to youth and young adults. This has been carried out in a number of ways. Our young adult “Sal y Luz” retreat over the Christmas break. Intentional focus on development and financial sustainability at Briarwood Retreat Center. The first ever (in the ELCA) bishop’s group to the ELCA Youth Gathering. We are and will continue to prioritize young people including a focus on bringing back youth events and participation in our annual assemblies.
To emphasize this focus as well I have spent time aroundthe camp this summer, intentionally engaging when I can the staff and campers. This week I spent a lot of time at camp as my daughters were both day campers and overnight campers. It was great to be with these young people as well as youth from Abiding Grace Lutheran Church, Preston Meadow Lutheran Church, and other NT-NL congregations.
The youth from Preston Meadow utilized Briarwood’s unique physical location in a major metropolitan area to both have a camp experience and “get away” while also utilizing Briarwood staff to coordinate service projects in the amazingly diverse communities in the Metroplex. This is a GREAT example of the unique opportunity Briarwood offers to our congregations and those from around the ELCA and our ecumenical partners.
The most exciting thing I witnessed this summer was the growth of the “BASE Camp” day camp. Begun just last summer enrollment in BASE Camp grew more than 40% this year. This ministry is not only helping Briarwood financially but also connecting with our neighbors in the growing housing developments around us as well as providing a day camp opportunity for kids from our churches and many other denominations. They learn the same camp songs, do the same bible studies, as well as all the crafts, activities, and SWIMMING during the day.
Another new program instituted this year was a camp scholarship program for our congregations serving people of color, language other than English, and/or communities in poverty. Funded in part by our Mission Endowment Fund this experience has sponsored eight campers this summer from our Umoja (Swahili speaking) congregation as well as young people from St. John (Oak Cliff, Dallas), Walnut Hill (Spanish speaking community in Farmers Branch), and our prison ministry Church of the Damascus Road. The goal of this grant that I requested was to get these communities foot in the door of experiencing camp. To embrace the diversity of our synod and grow camping ministry in congregations that traditionally have not utilized this resource.
It has been a great week. I am always moved by the joy and spirit of our counselors and campers. Even when the temperatures reach over 100 degrees on a regular basis and we use tiki torches rather than campfires. We have a great time. I led Eucharist last evening and it was a joy to be with them in that special moment. When I see our counselors working with our young people I realize again how this is leadership formation.
Briarwood is about leadership formation across the generations but particularly with our young people. Youth and young adults are a vital part of our life as synod. We will continue to prioritize them and help develop them as leaders for God’s church and for the sake of the world. #NTNL #Briarwood #InMissionTogether